Billionaire Ray Dalio on climate change: ‘It worries me. I worry for man’

The economy isn’t the only concern billionaire Ray Dalio has on his mind lately. Like many others, he’s also anxious about climate change.

“It worries me. It’s almost like I worry for man,” Dalio tells CNBC Make It.

Dalio, 72, stepped down as co-CEO of hedge fund Bridgewater Associates in 2017. Since then, the billionaire’s ventures have largely refocused on sharing knowledge with younger generations, ranging from people management software company Principles to OceanX, a New York City-based ocean research and exploration nonprofit that Dalio co-founded with his son Mark in 2018.

Over those past three years, Dalio says, he’s realized that plenty of folks still talk about climate change in a “theoretical sense.”

“Many people think 20 years from now is far,” he says. But it “ain’t far.” he adds.

In focusing on ocean climate, Dalio says, he’s discovered that few people understand the massive amounts of carbon dioxide the ocean absorbs. According to researchers at England’s University of Exeter, around 25% of all CO2 emissions generated annually by human activity — roughly 900 million tons — are absorbed in the ocean, making it one of the world’s largest carbon sinks.

Before the industrial era, the researchers wrote last year, the ocean actually released CO2 into the atmosphere. But now, the added carbon can alter the chemistry of seawater, a process known as ocean acidification — decreasing the water’s pH level and causing some organisms’ shells and skeletons to dissolve, significantly altering the ocean’s food chain.

That’s just one climate change consequence of many, Dalio says, referencing the world’s recent uptick in forest fires and severe storms. Climate change is “one of those things that is kind of creeping up on us slowly,” he says, suggesting that the repercussions will become even more catastrophic down the road.

Many environmentalists agree.

On Sunday, a new study published in academic journal Science said extreme weather events will likely intensify in the coming decades. The study projected that children born in 2020 will experience heat waves, droughts, crop failures, wildfires and floods at a rate two-to-seven times higher than people born in 1960.

And last month, in a report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of climate experts gave humanity a “final wake-up call” to curb global warming before it’s too late. The report outlined the role companies, countries and individuals can each play to help curb the crisis.

“It’s almost as though man is like a disease on the planet,” Dalio says. “And that planet and nature have the ultimate power.”

According to a poll from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication released on Monday, more Americans are becoming increasingly concerned with climate change. The report says 70% of Americans are “very” or “somewhat worried” about global warming, an all-time high since the program started tracking data in March.

Dalio says corporations and individuals alike can use their money to positively influence the fight by doing more environmental, social and governance — or ESG — investing.

Last year, Dalio’s Bridgewater started advising clients on environmentally conscious investing and announced plans to open two sustainable funds in 2021.

“Fortunately, I think it’s becoming bad or uncool or nasty to be doing harm to the environment, and it’s becoming cool and appropriate or polite to do things like ESG investing,” Dalio says.

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